19 May 2016
Known for its innovativeness in the transportation game, Uber unveiled its first self-driving car on Thursday with an announcement that it had started testing an autonomous vehicle on the streets of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
In a statement, Uber wrote, “if you’re driving around Pittsburgh in the coming weeks you might see a strange sight: a car that looks like it should be driven by a superhero.
“But this is no movie prop — it’s a test car from Uber’s Advanced Technologies Center (ATC) in Pittsburgh.”
Uber emphasised that they are “still in the early days of our self-driving efforts,” and was “focused on getting the technology right and ensuring it’s safe for everyone on the road — pedestrians, cyclists and other drivers.”
While Uber has said little up to now about its plans in the sector, the California group last month was among the founding members of an industry group called the Self-driving Coalition for Safer Streets which also includes Alphabet unit Google, Ford, Volvo and Lyft. Uber will be using a hybrid Ford Fusion that will gather mapping data as it tests the autonomous driving capabilities. The car will have multiple sensors including radars, laser scanners, and high resolution cameras to map details of the environment.
Uber said that even when the vehicle is in autonomous mode, “a trained driver will be in the driver’s seat monitoring operations.” Like others involved in autonomous driving research, Uber said this could avert accidents, save lives and reduce congestion.
“Self-driving cars have the potential to save millions of lives and improve quality of life for people around the world,” the company statement said, adding that “94 percent of (road) accidents involve human error.”
Uber has a research center in Pittsburgh and said it chose the city because it “is an ideal environment to develop and test our technology across a wide variety of road types, traffic patterns and weather conditions.”
Alphabet earlier this month announced an alliance with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) in a major expansion of its fleet of self-driving vehicles. An array of automobile makers including Audi, Ford, Mercedes, Lexus, Tesla and BMW are working on building self-driving capabilities into vehicles.